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Family -- ages 5 to 59 -- finds that shoplifting charges add up

January 26, 2008|Eric Bailey | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — In the endless debate over nature versus nurture, consider the case of a Central Valley clan soon to be appearing in criminal court.

Should the family that shoplifts together stay together?

Police this week apprehended three generations of the same brood, ages 5 to 59, suspected of pocketing items worth more than $900 from a big-box department store in the little city of Lodi, 35 miles south of the state capital. Among the group were the grandmother caught on surveillance tape heisting merchandise and the tiny granddaughter nabbed with pilfered bubble gum in her little pink purse.

It unfolded at a Target department store on Lodi's western outskirts.

Linda Robinson, the 59-year-old grandmother, and her daughter Anna Fernandez, 36, were apprehended at the store Monday evening along with Fernandez's four children: three sons ages 17, 14 and 8, and the 5-year-old daughter. A 13-year-old friend was also detained.

The booking of the purportedly larcenous pack -- grandmother, mother, teenagers, preteens -- prompted even veteran officers to "do a double take," said Lodi Police Det. Eric Bradley, who added, "I haven't seen one quite like this."

"It's pretty sad," he said, "to have children being brought up in an environment where stealing is OK."

Store security officers spotted the family members wandering among the shelves for nearly 90 minutes, allegedly using box cutters to open packages holding MP3 players and other electronic items.

The store detained the family and called police, who said they found merchandise in pockets, purses and backpacks. The items included digital cameras, DVDs, jewelry and sports equipment, officers said.

Robinson and Fernandez were arrested on suspicion of grand theft, misdemeanor vandalism and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. They were arraigned in Lodi branch court and released a day after the arrests.

The teenage boys and the girlfriend were charged with grand theft and released to relatives. They will appear in Juvenile Court. The two younger children, also released to relatives, were not cited because of their ages, Bradley said.

It wasn't just a one-time deal, he said.

Fernandez told police she had stolen four MP3 players from the Target store two days before she was caught and given them to her 14-year-old son to pass along to his friends.

Bradley said he has had contact with Fernandez on previous cases. She lives with her children in a poor section of the city and was arrested in 2000, he said. He declined to provide details of that case.

Robinson, who is disabled, lives in nearby Stockton.

If convicted, the mother and the grandmother could face up to eight years in prison.

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